The Fiat 500e is North America's New Cheapest Car

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the fiat 500e is north america s new cheapest car

Almost a month ago, I wrote that the Ford Focus Electric was the cheapest car in North America. Because federal, state, and local incentives are rolled into the price of a lease, along with the sizable discounts applied by the manufacturer, a $30,000 dollar EV can easily be priced below a $16,000 internal combustion model. Those piling discounts on other models have dethroned the Focus as America’s cheapest car.

Fiat’s 500e can currently be had for roughly the same price as a decent pair of sneakers, continuing the trend of bargain basement pricing on small electric cars. At $69 per month for 36 months with no money down, it’s also a better deal than the shoes — which can typically only manage a few hundred miles before becoming a tattered mess. With some evening reprieves to recharge, the Fiat can top that in a week with only the slightest hint of tread-wear. However, this incredibly low leasing rate for the $33,00 EV isn’t even the best deal of the last few months.

On Black Friday, Orange Coast Fiat in Costa Mesa, California, had the little electric listed at $49 per month with no money down — 20 dollars below the current unbelievable price.

Why is the 500e going for so cheap? One big reason is that Fiat Chrysler never really intended to sell any. “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the Brookings Institution of the 500e in 2014. “I’m honest enough to tell you that.”

The EV was developed by Fiat Chrysler specifically as a compliance car to satisfy emissions regulations in California and other states mandating the sale of zero-emission vehicles. The company never had any intent to make this vehicle a sales leader or profitable, it only exists to keep its other, less environmentally friendly, vehicles in those markets.

It has also suffered from extensive recalls and is among bottom of the pack in terms of range; while the majority of its competitors have implemented stronger battery units the 500e uses a 24 kWh lithium-ion that sustains it for 87 miles under the ideal circumstances.

The average transaction price for the Fiat 500e was $11,129 through February and the typical incentive dollars-per-unit spent was $14,463. That is an incentive spend of 130 percent of its average transaction price.

Even some of the worst deals currently available still place the 500e well below the company advertised $169/month leasing offer. Websites are offering deals anywhere between the previously mentioned $69 a month up through $149. Green Car Reports has also cited off-lease 2013 Fiat 500es as being listed on Southern California auction sites for as little as $4,100.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler] [Source: Automotive News]

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3 of 43 comments
  • HotPotato HotPotato on Mar 07, 2017

    You can buy and operate a used one in any state. But if you need dealer service, the 500e certified mechanics are in California. There are a handful of shade-tree 500e mechanics scattered around though (longtime EV enthusiasts mostly), some on the same 500e community on Google Plus that used to have Jim Hagerman, one of the car's engineers, lurking. (He has since moved to China.)

    • Cferguson77 Cferguson77 on Jul 13, 2018

      I just bought 2 of these at $9500 each from Marietta Georgia. They each had less than 400 miles on them as they were fleet vehicles. I was able to get the tax credit for each since they never had a previous owner - so I got them for only $2K. Also, you can get a solid 120 miles per charge in "Ideal" conditions.

  • Fiatservice Europe Fiatservice Europe on Jun 01, 2020

    love this car !

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  • Billccm I had a 1980 TC3 Horizon and that car was as reliable as the sun. Underappreciated for sure.
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